Jason Jones’ Hospitality Group does it again
Address: Como House and Gardens, Cnr Williams Rd & Lechlade Ave, South Yarra
Open: Monday to Saturday, 9am until 5pm
Sunday, 10am until 5pm
Sunday, 10am until 5pm
Phone: (03) 9942 3630
Como House and Gardens in South Yarra is one of those special Melbourne places—the kind of spot where you forget how beautiful it is until you’re there. The 160-year old National Trust property is an oasis in the middle of Melbourne city, but until yesterday, it had been closed to the public for a year and a half after the VCAT took The National Trust to court. As the Como gates reopened yesterday, so too did the doors of The Stables of Como for the very first time.
Jason Jones’ hospitality group ICKE & IGBY (Porgie + Mr. Jones, Snow Pony and Friends of Mine) is to thank for this stunning garden café. It's clear Mr. Jones appreciates the tranquility of Como House. "I live in St. Kilda Road and I come here and it's like I've just travelled to the country. There's no traffic noise, it's just beautiful, peaceful," he said. And sure enough, when we visited The Stables in its second day of operation before any articles were written, hype induced or seats were queued for, the sun was shining upon the grass and garden gnomes in the outside seating area, and for a minute, it felt like we were in the middle of the English countryside in summer.
Inside the shabby chic décor is a mix of oversized pendant lights, dainty white chairs and greenery, all framed by wooden and tiled finishes. Not that any of it really matters when you set eyes upon the Willy Wonka-esque bench top of cake domes shielding seemingly endless sweets and pastries from salivating children (and adults). The cakes are currently sourced from different suppliers, but The Stables is on the hunt for a pastry chef so they can make their goodies in-house. Speaking of house-made, it’s worth trying Aggies Lemonade scones, which are baked in the original 1847 Como kitchen coal-fired ovens and served with Bonne Maman jam and whipped Chantilly cream.
We popped in for lunch and there was instantly a problem: no one could decide what to order. Not even the usual ‘process of elimination’ method was working. There was simply too much we wanted to try. Even the gorgeous Winnie the Pooh quote on the menu was distracting us. After making sure no one doubled up, the lovely waitress revisited us for a third time and we placed our order.
I opted for the Ploughman’s Plate with a chunky square of ham hock terrine, free from the oiliness and fattiness that usually accompany terrines. It arrived on a wooden board sprinkled with pink pickled shallots, a triangle of crumbly Maffra cheddar, juicy beetroot relish and vibrant apple jelly in a jar.
When the ‘doorstopper’ sourdough sandwiched was placed before us, the penny instantly dropped. Initially concerned with the thick slices of bread, we discovered they were so light and soft that they don’t weigh you down as we originally thought they would. Dad went for the rare porterhouse beef option that was paired with cumin roasted beetroot and creamed horseradish. The crispy bacon and bulldog sauce butty doorstopper was also tempting.
Mum picked a lighter dish: Salad Lyonaisse with witlof, frisee, pancetta, pecorino, garlic toasted croutons, Dijon vinaigrette and a poached “googie” (A.K.A an egg, from happy chickens, no less). The egg was impeccably poached and didn’t have that manufactured roundness to it that’s all too common in cafés. I adored the croutons that left my lips and mouth glossy with olive oil, but they were a bit full on for mum. She also encountered a touch of grit on the leaves, but that was really the only teething issue we encountered.
I knew before we ordered lunch what we were having for dessert. Mum had her heart set on the pistachio and raspberry teacake from Little Bertha, made with almond meal, crowned with white chocolate cream cheese icing, and finished with a raspberry.
I was almost seduced by the Orange Bergamot NY baked cheesecake with gingerbread ice cream, but dad’s eyes were begging for the banana split. It was a good decision. We shared it. Not such a good decision. The compulsory elongated oval glass bowl housed a single banana, cut down the middle so it hugged the two scoops of Jocks’ vanilla ice cream, liberally doused in chocolate sauce and scattered with peanut brittle. I’ll definitely be back for that bad boy.
The Stables of Como also offers breakfast. The menu, unsurprisingly, is a reincarnation of Porgie + Mr. Jones (and co.). Expect favourites such as smashed avocado with thyme buttered mushrooms, marinated feta and torn basil on wholegrain toast, as well as dukkah eggs, toasted banana bread and organic ‘Full of Grace’ berry granola with yoghurt and honey.
Another great option at The Stables is the Devonshire Tea for $15pp, consisting of the lemonade scones, a cup of Larsen & Thompson tea or Allpress coffee, and your choice of ‘Chocodence’ truffle. The High Tea is also good value at $35pp and includes the Devonshire Tea package plus pistachio and cherry biscotti, parmesan sablés with feta and roast beetroot pesto, chicken and smoked salmon sandwiches, and Quiche Lorraine.
The Stables of Como will get damn busy, not just because it’s a café in a beautiful area by a well known restaurateur, but because there isn’t anywhere else in Melbourne quite like it. It helps that the staff have a charming attitude and the food is divine, but that was always going to be a given based on the group's history. You can't book (shock horror) but there's no need to stress about getting a table when you can pre-order a picnic, borrow a croquet set and set yourself up in the stunning Como Gardens. It’s a tough life.